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Justice welder takes first in Forest Preserve ‘Sculpting WILD’ art contest; Joliet, Crete and Somonauk residents also win awards

Justice resident Juan Lopez's ingenious iguana sculpture made of nuts, bolts, screws and tools locked up first place in the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s 2021 "Sculpting WILD" juried art show. Lopez was awarded the top prize of $500 for his upcycled creation. (Photo by Forest Preserve staff | Anthony Schalk)

Heavy metal iguana wins Forest Preserve’s 2021 ‘Sculpting WILD’ juried art show

An ingenious iguana sculpture made of tools, chains, auto parts, nuts, bolts, drill bits and screws took the top spot in the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s ’s 2021 “Sculpting WILD” juried art show.

“Iguana” by Juan Lopez of Justice was deemed by a panel of judges to be the top entry from among 38 artworks that were on display at Plum Creek Nature Center in Crete Township from March 2 through April 3. A total of 53 pieces were submitted for consideration.

The impressive lizard is 2 feet wide, 1 foot tall, almost 6 feet long and it weighs around 45 pounds. Lopez, a scrap metal artist, has been creating metal art for seven years out old and discarded tools, automotive parts and found objects and the work has become his “passion.”

“It’s awesome,” he said of his first place finish. “It was great news. Especially because there were so many great artists in the show. And it was my first time in an art competition.”

The scraps he uses to create his artwork come from “everywhere,” he said. “I go to yard sales, flea markets and even find things on the side of the road. I also upcycle all of my scraps from work.”

People’s Choice Award
“The Hungry Giraffe” sculpture by Deanna Lynn Otten of Somonauk was the top vote-getter in the People’s Choice Award, which was determined by public voting on the District’s Facebook page. More than 1,900 votes were cast.

Otten credits classes with teacher Gene Westerberg in Sandwich for her new hobby of woodcarving. “It was here that I learned how to turn a wood block into beautiful form with personality,” she said.

The giraffe is 30-inches tall and made from basswood and acrylic and it took 60 hours to create with rotary powered tools and wood burning tips.

“I feel honored that others like my sculpture as well,” she said in reaction to her win. “I love to challenge myself and learn new techniques from others. This was my first professional exhibit. The experience was exciting!”

Symbiosis and Sinistral
In the juried portion of the show, June Finnegan of Crete came in second with her “Nature’s Symbiosis” sculpture. The retired art teacher said the abstract limestone sculpture highlights organic forms flowing across the piece “showing flower, egg, bird, flora and fauna in balance.”

And the jury awarded David Wheeler of Joliet third place for his “Sinistral” piece. Wheeler is a former railcar diesel mechanic who has taken up woodworking as a hobby. His piece is made of zebrawood and wenge wood and it portrays a shell’s uncommon left-hand growth, which is called a sinistral. “Most people don’t realize that shells grow both dextral (to the right) and sinistral (to the left),” he explained.

The juried art show was offered in partnership with The Nature Foundation of Will County, willcountynature.org. Cash prizes of $500 for first, $250 for second, $200 for third and $100 for the People’s Choice were awarded to the winners.

For more information on the Forest Preserve District of Will County, visit ReconnectWithNature.org.

Will County Forest Preserve press release


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